tv U.S. Senate CSPAN November 8, 2011 12:00pm-5:00pm EST
judge. the presiding officer: under the previous order, there will be 15 minutes of debate equally divided and controlled between the senators from vermont and the senator from iowa or their designees. ms. snowe: mr. president, i suggest the absence of a quorum. the presiding officer: the clerk will call the roll. quorum call:
the presiding officer: the senator from iowa. mr. grassley: i ask that the calling of the quorum be called off. the presiding officer: without objection. mr. grassley: i ask unanimous consent that all time be yielded back. the presiding officer: without objection, so ordered. the question is on the nomination. mr. grassley: i ask for the yeas and nays. the presiding officer: is there
the presiding officer: does any member wish to change his or her vote? on this vote, 99 are yeas, zero are nays and the nomination is confirmed. under the previous order, a motion to reconsider is considered -- is considered, made, and laid on the table. the president will be immediately notified of the senate's action and the senate
will resume legislative action today. under the previous order, the senate stands in recess until 2:15 p.m. we'll have more live senate coverage for you at 2:15 p.m. eastern here on c-span2. >> extremism is in the defense ever liberty is no vice. [cheers and applause] and let me remind you also that moderation in the pursuit of justice is no
virtue. >> you're watching c-span2 with politics and public affairs weekdays featuring live coverage of the u.s. senate. on weeknights watch key public policy events and every weekend the latest nonfiction authors and books on "book tv" you can see past programs and get our schedules at our website. join in the conversation on social media sites. >> now national security editor for "the washington times", bill gertz. he was on this morning's "washington journal" talking about a report on efforts in iran to develop the technology and skills needed to make nuclear bombs.
>> host: bill gertz is our guest here. he is national security editor with the "washington times" here to talk about the u.n. atomic watchdog's report on iran expected to come out this week. what's the latest on this report? >> guest: well, good to be on the show. and thanks, greta. the report will be released wednesday night vienna time and it will have three main takeaways. it is going to provide more information than it has in the past. the first is that basically the iranians have conducted computer modeling for a nuclear weapon. they have also been working on construction of an explosive container that's related to nuclear weapons. when you have a nuclear blast you need high explosives to trigger it. then the last thing is they're working on missile warhead, adapting a nuclear warhead to a missile. and that's kind of the late-stage of nuclear development. so this is fairly alarming
development. other details that were reported earlier in may we'll discuss some of its detonation testing. that is, working on the triggers that can actually trigger a nuclear blast. >> host: how does this differ from what we have known from past reports by this u.n. atomic watchdog? how did we get, what did the last report say and how did we get from there to here? >> guest: the last report was more circumspect. this was in september, september 2nd. it was an iea director-general report which talked about unanswered questions about past military-related activities in iran. the iranians have insisted that their nuclear program is purely civilian and that is becoming clear that it is a lie. i would also add this is also a challenge to this very questionable 2007 national intelligence estimate which has been widely criticized, even by the intelligence community itself which said iran had
halted work on nuclear weapons back in 2003. now it is clear that was false. you know i have written extensively about this. this is an intelligence failure of strategic magnitude that really deserves to be investigated by our watchdog agencies in congress. >> host: so how did the national intelligence report get it so wrong and the iaea have this type of information? >> guest: well i think first of all there has been new information that has come out since 2007 but i think that, and i have written about this, the 2007 estimate was clearly an effort at intelligence politicization. that is, certain elements within the intelligence community felt that the bush administration was trigger-happy and ready to start another war with iran and these officials, and of course i have researched this extensively, went out of their way to really get this estimate way wrong. now you'll still see some nuances i think general
clapper, the direct are you tore -- director of national intelligence said earlier this year said he had some finesse way of explaining why what was really nuclear weapons work and what was research and so they're trying to parse it in an effort to try to cover their rear end. >> host: so if, when this report comes out on wednesday and it contains the information that you're talking about, what's the implication? >> guest: well i think the first implication is, and there's been a lot of reports coming out of israel, that the israelis are preparing or perhaps getting ready to do some kind of military action. there have been a number of reports that the israeli prime minister has been lining up support within his cabinet. a couple of events before this. the israelis were able to secure the release of their soldier in exchange for a large number of palestinians. that was a key milestone for them. net netanyahu fired his
intelligence chief and chief of staff and replaced them with someone both people believe to be more@tuned to israel taking some type of military action. this could be part of a strategic feint by israel to get more international pressure to do something on the diplomatic front against iran. which i don't know how much more we can do. we put sanctions in and it hasn't stopped their nuclear program. >> host: could there be stronger sanctions? >> guest: well, i'm sure that is the direction that the obama administration wants to go and i'm sure there has been a lot of diplomatic efforts to try to lean on the israelis not to take action but again, i think what the israelis may be posturing for trying to get some stronger international response to iran's nuclear program. >> host: and what has been the response from the state department? >> guest: it's been rather quiet. i think they're getting ready for this report to be released. i have not heard the latest response to it. i think the white house spokesman yesterday addressed it.
and again basically said he didn't want to preempt what the report said but as i mentioned western diplomats in vienna told me that these three key points are what is going to be in the report. >> host: what has iran's response been? >> guest: they have dismissed it. they have been sabre rattling for number of months saying any attempt to take action against iran will result in their taking unspecified reaction. and that is a concern. >> we heard that this morning. the associated press reporting that one of their military officers saying if u.s. forces go after our military officers, we'll go after theirs. >> guest: right. they also have a terrorist capability in hezbollah which is known to operate around the world. we just saw the recent plot here in the u.s. with a quds force officer. so they have networks that could conduct terrorist attacks against u.s. interests if there were some type of military action
against iran. >> host: so, let me just take, actually, let me ask you about russia and china because they came out yesterday too in response to this report. what did they say? >> guest: well they are trying to forestall any type of action. china's case they have a long-standing relationship with iran. they want iranian oil. so they have been among the leaders playing down the iranian nuclear threat. russia is a similar case. the russians sold the nuclear reactor at boo sure and there -- bursch sure and there are key elements supporting this nuclear iranian program was a russian scientist who somehow helped the iranians with critical elements of developing a nuclear weapon. >> host: so there has been some evidence then that there were foreign scientists that helped out? >> guest: yes. >> host: what is the u.n. atomic watchdog and why is it that they can find out this information? >> guest: the international
atomic energy agency is based in vienna. they are well-known for the initial adams -- atoms for peace program way back in the '50s and '60s where they promoted the use of nuclear electrical power generating t has been misused by north korea for sure. iran also to get nuclear technology under the guise of peaceful programs and then turn it into a weapons program. in recent years they have kind of been on the, on the spot for trying to control some of these nuclear weapons programs that are out there and that is kind of, they have had a much more watchdog approach. the u.s. has been kind of working with them, supplying them with intelligence and also helping them find out information about these programs. >> host: do they have access to iran? i mean do they get into the country? >> guest: they do inspections periodically to declared facilities and a lot of their work is based on that. they have conversations with
iranians. the iranians for the most part have stonewalled pretty heavily on anything related to their nuclear program. and that has been reflected in iaea reports going back several months where the iranians say we're not, we have no nuclear weapons work and yet there are questions about these detonators and about this design information and about this computer modeling. >> host: here's an e-mail, sorry, tweet from florida, gordon who says, mr. gertz is there anything to the story that the u.s. and u.k. working on an attack plan on iran nuke facilities? >> guest: that has been fairly much denied. again, you never know what you know but i remember reporting several weeks ago that there was a meeting inside the joint chief's tank, ultrasecret meeting room in the pentagon, where the top, the chairman ever the joint chiefs was telling the other chiefs, we're not
going to do something. i don't know what they were not going to do but my sense is that the military clearly is not in a position to begin another conflict in the middle east especially when we're strapped financially and winding down the wars in iraq and afghanistan. >> host: west plain, nebraska, robin, a republican go ahead. >> caller: yeah. hi, bill. >> guest: good morning. >> caller: i like your writing. i read a few of your books. the only thing eight minutes for icbm to fire from iran to hit the united states? >> guest: yes. iranians missiles, they do not yet have a long-range missile capable of reaching the united states. all the intelligence assessments are that they're working on it. often in the guise of developing a space launch capability. they have launched satellites so there is concern about that. that's why the administration is the launching its european
phased adaptive approach, which is kind of the bush administration light program on developing a european-based missile defense system specifically targeted dealing with iran's missiles. they doll have a lot of missiles. the mainstay of the iranian missile force which is the shahab-3, a medium range missile of 620 miles. if you look at a map they could hit most targets throughout the middle east and parts of europe. >> host: helen wants to know on twitter, is iran's nuclear weapons a repeat of iraq's wmds that never was. sanctions easily broken by china and russia. why not sanction them? >> guest: that is a good question. the intelligence community is still suffering of that failure to iraq's wmd. i think part of the problem with understilting iran's program is the fact that they were wrong on iraq and now they're kind of afraid
to make any risky assessments about it but i think that there is a real concern that the iranians have not just, i mean they have a declared nuclear program. they have many declared sites and i think it's a real danger that they are very close to developing nuclear weapons. and as this latest report is going to say, not just having a weapon, but being able to build one small enough to put on one of their missiles. >> host: if people are interested in reading the report, what section of the report is key to look at? >> guest: well i think that the way past reports have done it they have, first of all, they go through these, what their inspectors have found, what is the status of known programs and then they usually contain a section on the military implications of, or the military aspects of iranian nuclear program. and in the past again it has been these unanswered questions about this work that they have done and that the iranians refuse to discuss with the iaea.
>> guest: the report is also suspected to include information about both, on both, before and after 2003. why is that year important? >> guest: well, i think that is highlighting this national intelligence estimate which said that, look, we don't have anything to worry about. they did work in the past but they're not doing it now and i think that any, anybody who could see a hand in front of their face would know that that was wrong and so i think that's the key thing because there was this strong, insistence by the u.s. intelligence community that we don't have much to worry about because they halted this nuclear weapons work so long ago. >> host: tony, a democrat in bethlehem, pennsylvania, on the air with bill gertz of "the washington times.". >> caller: good morning, greta. >> host: good morning, tony. >> caller: bill, 15 years ago i was in a taxi in new york and the cab driver i looked at him. i said where are you from? he said iran. i just said, what you arabs
have against america. he pulled over and he looked at me, and said i'm not an arab. i'm a persian. i realized there is more going on in this area than most people really understand. but, my feeling, i think is that the russians, who do have a lot of oil, really benefit from the instability in this area due to the price of the oil going up. and i think that behind the a lot of this problem there, and, you know, ahmadinejad when he says he wants to wipe israel off the map, we, the world can't let this guy get the bomb. >> host: bill gertz. >> guest: clearly i think that is the case especially on the russia part. russia is an oil-rich country and they're just beginning to start to get the oil out of the ground. and, clearly under the putin administration we've seen, kind of a, a reversal in the
democratic, benign direction of russia. they're kind of, putin has stated that he would like to restore the old soviet union minus the communist part of it. so that's a problem. and the middle east, you know, bottom line is, that's where the oil is and we're heavily dependent on oil as is china and the rest of the asia. so it is the central focus of our strategic interests. >> host: denver, colorado, tony, independent, you're next. >> caller: thank you. mr. gertz my question is really more strategic in nature and i'll just frame it by saying for 40 or a years we operated under this mutual assured destruction between superpowers and it seemed to keep us, keep the world at bay, it kept us safe. now with all of the small countries that with their hands on nuclear knowledge and power, we can't invade or bomb every single one of them. is it time for maybe a new
policy, something, you know, cheaply stated, maybe self-assured destruction where the united states takes a position that look, don't waste your time, energy, money resources on building nuclear weapons because if you ever use them, anywhere, anyhow, against anyone, it's spells the end for you. really kind of a self-assured destruction. i realize it sound extreme but no more extreme than mutual assured destruction. can you comment? do we need a new paradigm to deal with nuclear weapons in the world today? thank you. >> guest: sure. i mean it's clear that states like iran will not be detered like during the cold war when there was a balance of strategic power between the soviet union and the united states, and we each had our allies. i too agree there needs to be a shift. you really can't confront a lot of the day's threats
being iran, north korea, proliferation, with kinetic military force, conventional military force. it is more of a shadow war. it is a war-related to intelligence. it is related to zeal team six type operations. where you go in and take out people. it is also in the cyberrealm. this is clearly the direction. will we impose chips within nuclear weapons so we can trigger them a ant they won't work. can we attack the command-and-control system of a nuclear force so when they press the button no missile will take off? that is the direction things are going and i think that is good direction. >> host: this viewer, monica, tweets in. mr. gertz says iran could make nuclear weapons small enough to go on a missile. what about in a pack back? >> guest: backpack nukes, so-called backpack nukes are possible but they require much more sophistication than even making a warhead,
a ms. sill-sized warhead. basically it's, the u.s. developed them. they weren't really backpacks. they were more steamer trunk sized. these were tactical nuclear weapons. there were reports many years ago about the russians losing control of some of their tactical nuclear weapons like that. so, yeah, i mean, it's possible to do that but, under a uranium-based program which is what iran is believed to be doing it is more difficult to downsize and make small a nuclear device that can fit on a missile. backpack was probably a lot harder. it requires a plutonium system. >> host: phillies, democratic caller in texas. >> caller: good morning, c-span. how is everybody today? >> host: fine. what is your question or comment for bill gertz? >> caller: yeah. i'm curious why over the years we have been informed that israel has some nuclear
capability but no one seems to mention that when we're talking about these other countries who are either developing or have them. >> host: let's talk about that. >> guest: it's a good question. this is clearly been an issue that has been raised in the middle east just last week, israel test-fired a ballistic missile, i believed to be a new version of the jericho missile. they have ballistic missiles and their nuclear arsenal is undeclared. it is covert. it is believed to have, numbers i heard about 35 nuclear weapons either, aircraft deliverable or missile deliverable. this is certainly been an issue for the iranians i think in their drive for a nuclear weapons. it is really become a nationalistic issue. the problem is, how do you disarm these states? and i think the outlook's not good. i think it is very possible
that saudi arabia, because of iran will eventually develop nuclear weapons or develop some program with pakistan. so the outlook for proliferation is not good but there needs to be some type of middle east effort to try to denuclearize the region. >> host: "the washington times" reporting this morning, guard in training for nuclear arsenal in pakistan. pakistan is training 8,000 additional people to protect the country's nuclear arsenal which the u.s. fears could be vulnerable to penetration by islamist militants at war with the u.s.. >> guest: yes, this is an important story. how to protect the pakistani arsenal. since the bin laden raid last may, tensions between the u.s. and pakistan have been pretty high and i think the big fear in pakistan is that the u.s., using its advanced special operations capability, would, if there were a crisis in pakistan, that threatened those weapons would conduct some operation to take them. so it sounds like the pakistanis, which are
supposedly have their weapons under control, are seeking to enhance those controls. >> host: back to twitter here. gary says, no country should dictate to another what it can or can't do with its own territory. we have nukes. let everyone have them or no one. >> guest: well, you know, that's, there is whole argument to be made for who should have them and who shouldn't have them. it is a legacy of cold war we have them and a number of states have them and it's more of an alarming situation when you have a regime like that in iran which, as the caller mentioned earlier, has threatened to wipe israel off the face of the earth and has these kind of apocalyptic, theocratic rulers which certainly raises the bar in terms of concerns about who has them and who doesn't. >> host: a couple of people on twitter though want to know what is the threat to the united states? >> guest: well, i think the threat is to the u.s. and its allies in the region. as i mentioned, you know,
you can't think about the middle east without thinking about oil. i mean everybody who gets in their car every day, you know, is reliant on oil that is coming from that region. so i'm not saying that's the main reason but certainly you can't discount that the fact that this is a major part and unless the u.s. finds alternative sources we're going to be dependent for a while. >> host: let's hear from pete, next. republican in coldwater, michigan. >> caller: hi, can you hear me? >> host: we can, pete, go ahead. >> caller: i had kind of a complex question for you on the nuclear weapons that are suspected over there in iran from literature and information i've seen and what i researched, america has the capability of detecting nuclear radiation that would be given off in any kind of a bomb scenario from outer space and they can detect, they have these machines and things fine tuned to where they can tell if it is just a nuclear type energy facility or if it is actually a bomb that's
capable of destroying and killing millions. and also kind of another part to my question or maybe it is not a question, i know that under the statutes how they determine who are terrorist is. seems that the true terrorists are you people, the americans on tv propagandizing and filling us full of all this crud and these lies about false threats. and you know, if people would just go to info wars.com they get the truth. >> host: bill gertz. >> guest: let me say about nuclear weapons detection. clearly would that it were so. we do not have a good capability to detect that and i think there's a recent example of that. first of all the u.s. intelligence community's budget is like 50 billion a year and part of that is the energy department has an intelligence section whose sole mission is to identify nuclear programs around the world, and, to be able to detect if they have
undertaken a nuclear blast. well we've seen two underground nuclear tests in north korea and? both cases the u.s. intelligence community wasn't able to very quickly determine whether or not there was a real test or whether it could have been some type of conventional explosion. you know, they feel fairly confident but the lack of specificity and the lack of speed with which our intelligence was able to confirm those tests certainly is troubling to me. that we really haven't advanced that much in terms of being able to detect these kind of things. >> host: what's the evidence coming from this u.n. atomic watchdog report that this nuclear capability is for military purposes? >> guest: my guess is, it's based on, and i don't know this, i'm just speculating, the best intelligence that the u.s. gets is through electronic communications and by that i mean that we have the ability to get into foreign communication, even
if they are extremely, strongly encrypted and coded and read those communications. all of the best in history, all of the best intelligence breaks have come from communications intelligence. the alternative is, it could have been from a human source we don't know about and there have been a lot of defectors and we know that iranian opposition groups in the past have provided new details on the iranian nuclear program that the u.s. intelligence community has but that is one of those source questions that is very hard to answer because they don't like to talk about it but if i were to bet it would be some type of sigint intelligence. >> host: will that be in the report that comes out wednesday from the u.n.? >> guest: no, it won't. >> host: they won't connect the dots like that? >> guest: they won't. that's a good question because the next question any reporter will ask, well, how do you know this? of course they're going to say well we received it from a variety of sources, from multiple foreign governments and from our own research as well as conversations and a
new level, open source information. they're gaining a lot of intelligence these days through open source, just the ability to focus on what's being put out there and being able to match that up with what they know in secret and get some really good intelligence. >> host: a couple more phone calls here for you, mr. gertz. north carolina, tim is a democrat. go ahead. >> caller: yes, good morning. my concern is that this has been going on for over four or five years and can you imagine what iran has been able to achieve in those four or five years of being, working on a nuclear program? i'm reading a book by mike evans that was written in 2007 and he mentions a lot of things that mr. gertz mentioned in his conversations today. so it is i think, of course
our economic problems here in the u.s. are quite large concern but equally concerned is iran getting a nuclear bomb because their religious, zealot and they have no concern about america and western eninfluence other than to destroying us unless we become muslim. that was discussed in the book. >> host: we have to run on that last point. bill gertz. >> guest: yeah, clearly we don't have a good handle on where all of these facilities are. i know from researching this that they have many underground nuclear facilitis. there have been a number of reports in the official u.s. intelligence assessment of the iranian program is that it has suffered set backs. and the program is centered around these large numbers of centrifuges, which are means that spin up uranium fluoride gas into
highly-enriched uranium. it takes a lot of centrifuges to make enough for a bomb but they have been building thousands of these centrifuges and i'm pretty sure there has been some sabotage in their supply chain which has made it more difficult for them to develop these, these centrifuge cascades. >> host: brunswick, georgia. jim, independent, go ahead. . . >> host: according to bill or here, wednesday night.
you've seen leaks of what will be in the report. you wrote a story recently, last week, about china/iran missile sales. what's the dynamic here? >> guest: this is a forthcoming report by the u.s./china commission which talked about how china has been, basically, selling iran large numbers of missiles, mainly cruise missiles. and last year built an entire missile factory inside iran. again, this highlights what we talked about earlier, about the chinese support for iran. i mean, china, you know, people like to think that it's not a nuclear-armed communist dictatorship, but it's kind of becoming the 9/11 force for rogue regimes. people can remember recently they found a number of documents in libya where chinese companies were getting ready to supply arms to gadhafi to try to keep him this power. >> host: for more information about the iaea's report, go to their web site, iaea.org. there it is on your screen.
for more information and to read more from bill gertz, go to washington times.org. >> the senate is in recease now so lawmakers can attend weekly party lunches. when they return at 2:15 eastern, more work is expected on a bill repealing withholding tax from contractors. as always, live coverage here on c-span2. voters in several states are going to the polls today. in oregon's first congressional district, primary voters are picking their party's nominees in the race to replace congressman david wu who resigned in august, and kentucky and mississippi are holding elections for governor today. on capitol hill attorney general eric holder testified about the justice department's decision to allow guns illegally purchased in arizona to be walked to drug smugglers in mexico. he told the committee that
general holder back with us as we complete this -- or continue our important focus on oversight. the attorney general was here in may, details were just emerging about the successful military intelligence operation that killed osama bin laden which did provide a measure of justice and closure for americans resulting from the horrific attacks of september 11th. that was not an isolated success. during the last few years, the obama administration has successfully reinvigorated, retooled, refocused our national security efforts. now, the attorney general as he is in any administration is a key member of that national security team. under his leadership the justice department last month foiled an assassination attempt in the united states of the saudi
ambassador to the united states and prevented a major act of terrorism on u.s. soil. last week four men in georgia were arrest inside a domestic terrorism plot accused of planning to use guns, bombs and toxic poison rye sip to kill -- ricin to kill federal and state officials. and earlier this year the christmas day bomber was convicted in federal court, pled guilty and faces a possible life sentence. we have to insure we do all we can to bring terrorists to justice by providing the administration with a full array of authorities in the counterterrorism efforts. in my view and the view i know is shared by the director of national as well as and the attorney general is, of course, short-sighted for the congress to hamstring those efforts. as we proceed, we should
remember that between september 11th, 2001 and -- [inaudible] 438 isn'ts were -- suspects were charged in federal court. 438. now, at the same time five have been -- six have been convicted in military commissions, only six. five of those were from plea bargains. now, the record over the last three years with respect to crime has also been outstanding. over the past three years, crime rates have fallen rather than risen which is contrary to normal experience during such difficult economic times. so as we proceed, each one of us is going to have questions about matters that concern us, but we should not lose sight of the big picture and the fact of what the
justice department is doing to keep us safe and secure. this morning there'll be more questions about the bureau of alcohol, tobacco and firearms exclosives -- explosives gun trafficking investigations along our border. should be reinforced longstanding department of justice policy prohibits the transfer of firearms to known criminals without the proper monitoring or controls by law enforcement. and administration officials have received at 17 congressional hearings about these matters including six held before this committee. i urge that they engage in important oversight, senators respect the need for law enforcement and prosecutors to do their jobs to address the serious threat of violence posed by these brutal drug cartels. i do not think anyone wants to hamper the efforts of law enforcement agents dweps the mexican cartels, including the
ongoing criminal investigation and prosecution related to the tragic murder of agent brian terry. so i thank the men and women of the department of justice who work hard every day the keep us safe and uphold the rule of law. i thank the attorney general for returning to the committee. i look forward to his testimony, and i've kept within my time as i fully expect everybody else to. senator grassley. >> this is a very important hearing, mr. president -- or, mr. chairman. there is a lot of the issues to bring up. however, over the time that the attorney general was last here, i've concentrated my oversight on operation fast and furious. just over nine months ago, attorney general holder sat in miss office, and i handed him two letters i'd written to acting director kenneth nelson of atf. my letter mentioned, up with,
the death of border patrol agent terry, two, the allegations that atf had sanctioned the sale of hundreds of weapons to straw buyers, three, the allegations that two of those weapons had been found at the scene of agent terry's death and, four, the allegations that the whistleblower who provided this information were being, were already or facing retaliation from the agency. just four dayses later the reply from the department explicitly stated that the whistleblower allegations were false. it also claimed that, quote, atf makes every effort to interdict weapons that have been purchased illegally and prevent their transportation to mexico. end of quote. in the nine months since then, mounting evidence has put the lie to that claim. documents contradicting the didn't's denials came to light -- the department's denial cans came to light. then six atf agents testified powerfulfully at two oversight hearings. they also confirmed that gun walking occurred in operation
fast and furious. just last week assistant attorney general lanny breuer admitted in this room that the department's letters to me in february was absolutely false. but it gets worse. mr. breuer also admitted that he knewal along it was fought -- he knew all along it was false. he could not recall whether he helped edit it. he knew it was false because he was aware of previous gun-walking operations called wide receiver. yet he remained silent for nine months. he was aware that congress had been misled, yet made no effort to correct the department's official denial. much has been said recently about guns being walked in operation wide receiver during the bush era. it doesn't matter for me when it happened, we need answers. bush-era prosecutors refused to bring the case. however, under mr. breuer's leadership, headquarters revived
it despite the gun-walking issues. it was mr. breuer's responsibility to clearly communicate that gun walking was unacceptable and to institute oversight and safeguards to insure that it did not happen again. he did not do that. mr. breuer admitted before this committee last week that one of his deputies informed him of gun walking in wide receiver april 2010. he also admitted that the same deputy approved at least one of the wiretap applications in operation fast and furious. in order to justify tapping the phone of a private citizen, the law requires that agencies show they have tried everything else first. but the very same facts that would show the need to obtain the wiretap would also show that the department knew these individuals were trafficking in weapons. the government should have stopped the flow of guns to these criminals. anyone reviewing the wiretap affidavits would probably know that was not happening.
i would also add that this tragedy should not be used to call for new gun troll. the straw buyers in fast and furious were already breaking the law. they should have been interdicted and arrested a year earlier than they were. the faulty statistics cited by some about u.s. guns in mexico include u.s. weapons sold to foreign militaries, weapons that were transferred into mention years ago, stolen weapons and many other sources. as we learn more about the utter failure to enforce our existing gun laws in fast and furious, i'm eager to hear from the attorney general who he plans to hold accountable. i also want to know how he plans to prevent another tragedy like this in the future. but let me be clear, the bottom line is that it doesn't matter how many laws we pass if those responsible for enforcing them refuse to do their duty as was
the case in fast and furious. thank you, mr. chairman. >> well, thank you very much and, everyone to general holder, would you, please, stand and raise your right hand? do you swear the testimony before this committee will be the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth so help you god? >> i do. >> please, go ahead, sir. >> chairman leahy and distinguished members of this committee, i appreciate the opportunity to appear before you today. over the last three years, i have been privileged to address this committee on numerous occasions and to partner with many of you in advancing the goals and the priorities that i think we all share. i'm extremely proud of the department's historic achievements over the last two years. despite significant financial constraints, we have effectively confronted a range of national security threats and public safety challenges. and i'm especially pleased to report that our efforts to combat global terrorism have never been stronger. since i last appeared before
this committee in may, or just three days after the decade-long hunt for osama bin laden came to a successful end, the department had achieved several additional milestones. for example, last month we secured a conviction against umar farooq alabama lab for his role in the attempted bombing of an airplane traveling from amsterdam to detroit on christmas day, 2009. we also worked closely with our domestic and international partners to thwart an alleged plot involving the iranian government to assassinate the saudi arabian ambassador to the united states on american soil. we have also disrupted numerous alleged plots by home grown violence extremists including one targeting a military recruiting center this washington state and another targeting soldiers in texas. we brought down a ring involving ten russian spies, and just last
week a federal jury in manhattan convicted viktor bout, one of the world's most prolific arms dealers, for his efforts in selling 800 surface-to-air missiles and 30,000 ak-47s for use in killing americans. the department has made progress in protecting civil rights, combating financial fraud, safeguarding our environment and advancing our fight against violent crime. we have filed a record number of criminal civil rights cases is, and in the last fiscal year our voting section opened more investigations, participated in more cases and resolved more matters than in any other similar time period in the last dozen years. we're immersed in the 5,500 cases for review including redistricting plans and other proposed state and local election law changes that would impact the access some americans would have to the ballot box.
we've also worked to insure that states do not institute an up constitutional patchwork of immigration laws. in recent months the department has challenged immigration-related laws in several states that directly conflict with the enforcement of federal immigration policies. not only would these laws divert critical resources from the most serious public safety threats, they can lead to potentiality discriminatory practices and undermine the vital trust between local jurisdictions and the communities that they serve. the department has also focused on efforts over financial fraud and successfully executed the largest financial and health care fraud takedowns in history. in addition, we secured a conviction in the biggest bank fraud prosecution in a generation taking down a nearly $3 billion fraud scheme, and through our aggressive
enforcement of the false claims act, a law significantly strengthened in recent years by the actions of this committee, we have secured record-setting recoveries that exceeded $8 billion since january of 2009. now, i am proud of these and many other achievements, and i am committed to building on this progress. although i hope to spend much of our time together discussing the work that's ongoing throughout the department, i'd like to take a moment to address the public safety crisis of guns flowing across our border into mexico and the local law enforcement operation known as fast and furious. that has brought renewed public attention to this shared national security threat. now, i want to be very clear. any instance of so-called gun walking is simply unacceptable. regrettably, this tactic was used as part of fast and furious which was launched to combat gun trafficking and violence on our southwest border. this operation was flawed in its concept and flawed in its
execution. and, unfortunately, we will feel the effects for years to come as guns that were lost during this operation continue to show up at crime scenes both here and in mexico. this should never have happened. and it must never happen again. to insure that it will not and after learning about the allegations raised by atf agents involved with fast and furious, i took action. i asked the department's inspector general to investigate this matter, and i ordered that a directive be sent to the department's law enforcement agents and prosecutors stating that such tactics violate department policy and will not be tolerated. more recently, the new leadership at atf has implemented reforms to prevent such tactics from being used in the future including stricter oversight procedures for all significant investigations. today i'd like to correct some of the inaccurate and, frankly,
some of ther responsible accusations surrounding fast and furious. some of the rhetoric might lead you to believe this local arizona-based operation was somehow the cause of the epidemic of gun violence in mexico. in fact, fast and furious was a flawed response to and not the cause of the flow of illegal guns from the united states into mexico. as you all know, the trafficking of firearms across our southwest border has long been a serious problem, one that has contributed to the approximately 40,000 deaths in mexico in the last five years. as senator feinstein highlighted last week, of the nearly 94,000 guns that have been recovered and traced in mexico in recent years, over 64,000 of those guns were sourced to the united states of america, 64,000 of 94,000 guns sourced to this country. the mistakes of operation fast and furious, serious though they
were, should not deter or distract us from our critical mission to discuss result the dangerous flow of firearms along our southwest board. i have supported a number of aggressive steps to do so, and our work has yielded significant successes. we have built crime-fighting capacity on both sides of the border by developing new procedures for using evidence gathered in mexico to prosecute gun traffickers in u.s. courts, by training thousands of mexican prosecutors and investigators, by successfully fighting to enhance sentencing guidelines for convicted traffickers and straw purchasers and by pursuing coordinated, multidistrict investigations of gun trafficking rings. this year alone we have led successful investigations into the murders of u.s. citizens in mexico, created new cartel-fighting prosecutorial units and secured the extradition of 104 defendants wanted by u.s. law enforcement including the former head of the tijuana cartel. now, this work has undoubtedly
saved and improved lives in the united states as well as in mexico, and i am personally committed to combating gun trafficking and reducing the alarming rate of violation along the southwest border by using effective and appropriate tools. like each of you, i want to know why and how the firearms that should have been under surveillance could wind up in the hands of the mexican drug cartels, but beyond identifying where errors occurred and insuring they never occur again, we must careful no to the lose sight of the critical problem this flawed investigation has highlighted. we are losing the battle to stop the flow of illegal guns to mexico. this means, i believe, that we have a responsibility to act, and we can start by listening to the agents, the very agents who serve on the front lines of this battle and testified here in congress. not only did they bring the inappropriate and misguided tactics of operation fast and furious to light, they also sounded the aharm to congress that they need our help.
atf agents who testified before a house committee this summer explained that the agency's ability to stem the flow of guns from the united states into mexico suffers from a lack of effective enforcement tools. one critical first step should be for congressional leaders to work with us to provide atf with the resources and the statutory tools it needs to be effective. another would be for congress to fully fund our request for teams of agents to fight gun trafficking. unfortunately, earlier this year the house of representatives actually voted to keep law enforcement in the dark when individuals purchase multiple semiautomatic rifles and shotgun in southwest border gun shops. providing law enforcement with the tools to detect and to disrupt illegal gun trafficking is entirely consistent with the constitutional rights of law-abiding citizens and is critical to addressing the public safety crisis along the southwest border. now, as someone who has seen the consequences of gun violence
firsthand and who has promised far too many grieving families that i would do everything in my power not only to seek justice on behalf of their loved ones, but also to prevent other families from experiencing similar tragedies, i am determined to insure that our shared concerns about operation fast and furious lead to more than headline-granning, washington gotcha games and cynical political point scoring. we have serious problems to address. and we have sacred responsibilities to fulfill. we must not lose sight of what's really at stake here; lives, futures, families and communities. when it comes to protecting our fellow citizens and stopping illegal gun trafficking across the southwest border, i hope that we can engage in a responsible dialogue and work toward common solutions, and i hope that we can begin that discussion today. >> i think we'll begin the discussion. we have a number of issues
besides that one, and i agree with you that if we're going to stop that flow of guns into mexico -- and i've heard the same thing from the mexican authorities -- we're going to have to take some steps here in this country. we can't expect it all to be done across the border. let me take a few questions. i join with senator feinstein and some other members of this committee and the intelligence committee to ask the majority leader to refrain from bringing certain provisions in the defense authorization legislation before the senate senately improved. i -- senately improved. i know the administration expressed serious concerns with the intervention provisions of the bill as reported by armed services. the way it's reported would significantly reduce the options for investigating terrorist
threat, it actually lets all terror is know which options are off the table including those that have been most successful in bringing about convictions. even the heritage foundation has argued the bill would deny the president needed flexibility. would you agree that we need to keep our options open in countering terror is and -- terrorists and not start take options off the table? >> yeah, i would totally agree. we need to use all elements of american power in the fight against terrorism, our military power, our political power, the power we have in our judicial system, military commissions, we need maximum amounts of flexibility, and we also have to be practical when it comes to the measures that congress asks us and the executive branch to follow. >> and the vast majority of our -- almost by 100 to 1, by 90 to 1 -- convictions have been in our courts than before military tribunal s that correct?
>> that is correct. if one looks at dispassionately the history, there is no question our article iii system of courts have shown that they are fully capable of handling any matter that is brought before them. >> and that was the same if both the bush administration and the obama administration. >> that is correct. >> on september 30, 2011, it was reported that app war al-awlaki was killed in an operation conducted by the united states in yemen, and according to media accounts, the operation was conducted following the issuance of a secret memorandum issued by the department of justice which authorized the targeted killing of a u.s. citizen abroad. without going into the facts of that particular operation, i have written to you last month asking for a copy of that memorandum. is there any problem with providing this committee with a copy of that memorandum, even if it is required to be in a classified session? >> well, i first want to indicate that i will not address, cannot address whether
or not there is an opinion in this area, but i understand, mr. chairman, your interest in this subject, and we are committed to working with you to answer your questions in an appropriate setting and to the extent that we we we can. >> thank you. and in february you notified congress the department of justice would no longer defend the defense of marriage act, doma. i agreed with you, and i join senator feinstein and others to achieve to reduce the respect for marriage act allowing all lawful marriages, provided marriage was lawful in the state it occurred, with equal access to federal protections. in july the president expressed his support for our respect for marriage act. it's going to be considered by our committee in a markup thursday of this week. do you support the respect for marriage act which would repeal doma? >> the administration does, it's
consistent with the policies that the government has taken, um, as a result of the position that we took in court, i guess, in the first circuit. so the administration does support the passage of that bill. >> and the violence against women act has helped to transform our society be more responsive to domestic violence and sexual assault, focus on our criminal justice system more effectively prosecuting those crimes. we've got a lot of hearings in the this committee on that. it's now time to reauthorize it. i ask you this -- actually, this legislation began when vice president biden was chair of this committee. do you agree that reauthorizing and strengthening the violence against women act is a top priority especially in tough economic times with state and local budgets reducing the resources that are available to protect victims of domestic violence, sexual assault, dating
violence and stalking? >> yeah. i think that that is a priority for this administration. i would hope that this would be a priority for not only this committee, but for congress as a whole to reauthorize it. it has transformed our nation in a variety of ways not only with regard to the way programs are funded, but the way in which we have viewed the subject matter of that act, and nothing, i think, can be -- that is among the top priorities for this administration. >> this will be my last question before turning to senator grassley, as he already indicated he wants to ask you about operation fast and furious. the summit has been explored during six previous judiciary hearings. just want to raise the testimony of the house judiciary committee on may 3rd when congressman issa asked you then when you first knew about the fast and furious program, you responded: i'm not sure about the exact date, but i
probably heard about fast and furious for the first time over the past few weeks. now, as you know, there's been a lot of talk about your reference to the last few weeks, but those tend to not put the question in there along with your answer. and the fact you said in your answer you were not being precise, you were basically giving your recollection. i recall by february 28th you'd asked the inspector general to begin an investigation of fast and furious. you also testified about the operation of march 10th appropriations committee. so let me ask you the fundamental question, give you a chance to be more precise. when did you first learn the operational tactics being used in operation fast and furious, and what did you do about it? >> i first learned about the tactics and the phrase, "operation fast and furious," at the beginning of this year, i think, when it became a matter of, i guess, public controversy. in my testimony before the house
committee, i did say a few weeks. i probably could have said, um, a couple of months. i don't think that what i said in terms of using the term "a few weeks" was inaccurate based on what happened. um i got from, as senator grassley indicated, a couple letters from him at the end of january, i believe it was january the 31st. these letters talked about a connection between an operation and the death of agent terry, did not mention fast and furious. it referenced operation gun runner. i asked my staff to look into this, and during the month of february i became aware of fast and furious from press reports and other letters that i received from, um, senator grassley. i asked my staff to get to the bottom of that matter. we received information from atf and from the united states attorney's office in phoenix that contradicted some of these public reports, and it became clear to me that the matter needed to somehow be resolved.
and so as you indicated, mr. chairman, on february the 28th i asked the department of justice inspector general to investigate operation fast and furious. on march the 9th, i directed the deputy attorney general to instruct all prosecutors and agents throughout the justice department not to engage in these flawed tactics that we found in operation fast and furious. on march 9th i also confirmed the existence of the ig investigation. on march 10th i testified about this matter before the senate appropriations committee. so clearly, by the time i testified, um, in may before the house committee i had known about fast and furious for, um, several weeks as i indicated, a couple of months. but the focus on which day of which month, i think n some ways is a bit of a distraction that does nothing to address the flow of weapons from the united states across the southwest border. >> thank you.
senator grassily. >> i was going to start -- grassley. i was going to start with those letters that you just referred to that i gave you on january 31st, so i won't -- you've introduced my question, so i'll go immediately to the question. when we met that day, did you know that the guns connected to an atf operation had been found at the terry murder scene? >> i did not. >> thank you. less than 48 hours after agent terry died, your deputy was informed that guns found at the terry scene traced back to fast and furious. we have e-mails and detailed briefing papers that went to grindler on december the 17th. did mr. grindler ever say anything to you in december or january about the connection between the atf and the guns found at terry's murder scene? is. >> no, he did not. but i think it's understandable in the sense that the information that was shared with him did not indicate that any of the tactics that we find in the flawed operation fast and
furious operation were actually mentioned in the e-mail that, um, that you reference. so he did not share that information with me. >> okay. documents produced by the department suggests that your deputy chief of staff spoke with u.s. attorney dennis burke about fast and furious shortly after agent terry's death. did mr. wilkinson say anything to you about the connection between agent terry's death and the atf operation? >> no, he did not. the conversations that they had were about a variety of things as i've looked at the e-mails now. the possibility of me coming out to at some point talk about engaged in a press conference, other matters, but there was no discussion between them of the tactics that, um, are of concern with regard the fast and furious, and as a result of that, mr. will wilkinson did not share information with me about his contacts with former u.s.
attorney burke. >> last week lappny brewer said that he deeply regrets his failure to tell you earlier about gun walking in operation wide receiver. but what about his failure to tell congress and correct false statements in the department's letter to me on february the 4th? is that acceptable to you that he did not tell us about those false statements in the letter of february the 4th? >> well, let me clear something up. the information that was shared with you on february the 4th in that response, there was information in that letter that was inaccurate. the letter could have been better crafted. we were relying -- in the crafting of that letter, people were relying on information provided to them by people who were, we thought, in the best position to know what was accurate, people in the u.s. attorney's office, people at atf, people who themselves have now indicated in their congressional testimony before the house that they were not aware of the tactics that were employed.
as a result of that, the information that is contained in that february 4th letter to you was not, in fact, accurate, and that is re-- i regret that. >> did he offer you his resignation because of that? no, he has not, and i don't want expect to hear a resignation offer from mr. breuer. >> you're refusing to provide drafts of that february 4th letter and e-mails about the drafts each though they have been subpoenaed without the house without a valid constitutional privilege that that, of course, risks contempt of congress. why would you risk contempt of congress to find out whether they knew they contained false statements? >> well, we'll certainly try to work with you in providing you all the relevant information you can. we will, however, act in a way that's consistent with other attorneys general have made determinations as to what information can be shared with congressional oversight committees, and these are republican as well as democratic, um, attorneys general, and i will act in a
manner that's consistent with the history and the tradition of the department. >> if those documents show that mr. breuer reviewed a draft of the letter before it went out and failed to correct the statements that he knew was false, would that be a reason for his resignation? >> that would be a reason for a concern, but i think the facts show that the people who were responsible for the drafting of the letter did not know at that time that the information that was contain inside that letter was inaccurate. we do now know looking back that the information provided to you was inaccurate, and as i said, that is something that i regret. >> mr. breuer's deputy, jason, was also aware that atf brought guns -- bought guns. he briefed judiciary committee staff on february the 10th in response to my letters. did mr. weinstein review a draft of the february 4th letter before it was sent to me? >> i don't know. >> who will be held accountable
for allowing a letter to congress with a statement that many people in the justice department knew was false? >> well, again, i have to dispute with due respect the assertion that people in the justice department knew the false. people in the justice department who were responsible for the creation of that letter, again, relied on information provided to them that they thought was accurate. we only know that the information was ip accurate in hindsight. at the time the letter was prepared, the -- our best thought was that information supplied was, in fact, correct. >> someone in the justice department leaked a document to the press along with talking points in an attempt to smear one of the atm whistleblower who testified before the house. this document was supposed to be so sensitive that you refused to provide it to congress, but then someone provided it to the press. the name of the criminal suspect in the document was deleted, but the name of the atf agent was
not. this looks like a clear and intentional violation of the privacy act as well as an attempt at whistleblower retaliation. in a private home conversation with me, you already told me that someone has been held accountable for this, but your staff refused to provide my staff with any details. who was held accountable and how? >> >> you know, it's almost, it almost pains me -- and, please, don't take this away from senator grassley's time. as you said, we had a private conversation -- you sent me a handwritten note that i took very seriously. you and i have worked together on a variety of things. i think i have a good relationship with you. you sent me a handwritten note that i took seriously, referred that letter to opr, the ig, i'm not sure which of the two, and asked them to try to find out what happened. i called you to try to indicate to you that i had taken that matter, um, seriously, that action had been taken. um, you know, in a different
time in washington, i'm not sure that what you just said necessarily would have been shared with everyone here, but, you know, so be it. it's a different time, i suppose. in response to your question -- >> you understand that i told you over the phone conversation if you wanted me not to ask this question, that i said have your staff inform my staff because i work very closely with my staff and give the details so that i would know that this would be an inappropriate question to ask at this hearing. >> we'll let the attorney general answer, and then we'll go to senator col. same rule i applied -- >> you went one minute and 40 -- >> no, i did not. >> you asked the question -- >> i finished my questions before the time was up. you can answer his question even though he asked it after his time was up. >> with regard to the question, the matter's under investigation. there were a couple of leaks,
and those leaks are under investigation by the inspector general, by the office of professional responsibility, and i'm not in a position to comment onion going investigations. >> that was part of attorney general holder's testimony before the senate judiciary committee today. you can see all of that hearing in our overnight programming, and right now at c-span.org. we're seeing this live on capitol hill where democratic and republican senators often make remarks after their party lunches. we see there are some photographers waiting for the senators. we'll have their comments live for you if they come to the microphone. >> republican presidential candidate herman cain will give remarks live at 5 p.m. eastern from phoenix responding to sexual harassment allegations. that'll be live on c-span, c-span radio and c-span.org. we heard from viewer on this morning's "washington journal"
about the sexual harassment allegations. >> host: let me begin with some information for you from the equal employment opportunity commission about sexual harassment and federal law. this is what it says. >> host: that's from the eeoc's web site. and then yesterday in the opinion pages of the "wall street journal," kurt levey wrote a piece about the legality of the issue, and he writes this:
>> host: under title -- >> washington journal air live every morning at 7 eastern on c-span. we're going lye now to capitol hill to hear from senate democrats after their weekly party meetings. senate majority leader harry reid is speaking. >> we want to pass this week. it's time for the republicans to stand dancing -- stop dancing around this issue and support veterans. friday is veterans day. this bill could not be more straightforward. house republicans and democrats already voted for a major component of this bill. a plan to give older veteran access to job training and help young veterans transition from active duty to the civilian
workplace. in addition to those provisions, the bill would provide tax credits to employers who hire veterans returning from iraq and afghanistan. america's veterans are really counting on this bill being -- becoming law. the unemployment rate among returning veterans is 12%, three points higher than the national average. but if you're under age 25 and a veteran, it's 22%. republicans like to talk about bipartisanship. it's time for them to match their words with action. this bill, of course, would be just the beginning. the president's doing some things administratively that are very important. if we can work together to put veteran back to work, we should be able to work together to put the rest of the country back to work. but for reasons that i don't fully understand, my republican colleagues should prove quickly that they're willing to work with us on this non-controversy, common sense piece of legislation. so i hope they'll put politics aside and say they clearly
support this bill. they haven't said so yet. there's no better time than now to make good on our commitment to america's veterans. >> senator reid? senator reid, i'm curious to the status of the procreation bill -- [inaudible] >> according to what you mean by is. no, okay. really they're working hard, we expect the conference to be completed by next week. i'm, i hope that's the case. i certainly think it's doable, and this week we're going the move to the next mini bus consisting of financial services and energy and water. >> [inaudible] >> pardon me? >> >> -- [inaudible] budget amendment. >> pardon me? >> [inaudible] >> i don't -- that's not on my schedule today next week.
to do next week. this is the first i've heard about it. we were going to do it after thanksgiving, but we have no plan to do it next week. >> what do you have in plans of the holding repeal? >> the 2% withhold is the instrument that puts the veteran bill on the floor. we need a tax bill. so we're taking the house provision as modified by senator murray and her committee both on a bipartisan basis and language dealing with tax credit that came from the white house, and that will be an amendment to the, um, 3% withholding. and the 3% withholding will have a provision there that we will still go after the cheaters. there'll be an extension of a law that allows us to go after them, but we need more specificity with that regard, and there'll also be a study to see if we need to do more. >> senator reid? >>
[inaudible] are you going to be changing the house -- [inaudible] >> no. >> senator schumer said yesterday that he was not optimistic, he predicted that the supercommittee would not reach an agreement because republican won't budge on -- revenue collection. do you agree with senator schumer's position? >> i've spoken the last 24 hours several occasions with senator murray, senator baucus, and i've spoken to senator kerry. they're working really hard to come up with some kind of an arrangement to do something about the problems that this country faces financially. the difficulty we find is that every one of these discussions grover norquist seems to be in the room. and as he indicated last night, he is quite sure that there will be nothing done with tax revenues. that's grover norquist who seems
to be elbowing his way into all these rooms where we're having these meetings. it's a shame that grover norquist is present at all these meetings we have. i would hope that with respect the case. i am hopeful that the republicans on the supercommittee will break away from this -- >> but are you optimistic? >> i -- anytime senator murray says give i more time, i listen to her. she is one of the best legislators i've ever dealt with, and she's got two veterans with her who are terrific. >> senator reid? senator reid? >> [inaudible] >> senator reid, what is your reaction to bill daley handing off more responsibility to pete ralphs at the -- pete rouse at the white house? do you think it will help relations here on the hill? >> i have been asked that question several times already today. it's none of my business, frankly, what the white house does with their iper staff. --
inner staff. if i'm asked a question by the president or any of them, i answer responsibly, but it would be absolutely wrong for me to get involved this that, and i'm not going to. [background sounds] [inaudible conversations] [inaudible conversations] [inaudible conversations] >> so we heard from senate
majority leader harry reid, and we may here from senate republicans before the senate comes back in in a few minutes. we heard senator reid talk about a bill repeal ago 3% withholding tax for contractors. the senate will continue debate on that when they return at 2:15 eastern. democrats are expected to offer an amendment to the bill that will give tax credits to companies that hire unemployed veterans and would encourage job training for outgoing service members. already today the senate confirmed the nomination of evan wallich to the appellate judge to the federal circuit. some live coverage later on today, republican presidential candidate herman cain will speak at 5 p.m. eastern on c-span. here's the first line of the story in "the new york times." after repeatedly declaring this weekend that he was going to completely ignore the sexual allegations swirling around him, herman cain has reversed tactics once again scheduling a news conference for tuesday evening
and promising to take the latest accusations, quote, head on. we'll have herman cain live at 5 p.m. eastern from phoenix responding to sexual harassment allegations. that'll be live on c-span, c-span radio and c-span.org. [inaudible conversations] [inaudible conversations] [inaudible conversations] [inaudible conversations]
[inaudible conversations] >> we're waiting to hear from senate republican before the senate comes in about five minutes from now at 2:15 eastern time. voters in several states are going to the polls today. in oregon's first congressional district, primary voters are picking their party's nominees on the race to replace congressman david wu who resigned in august. kentucky and mississippi are holding elections for governor today, and two major ballot initiatives. in mississippi voters are deciding when to amend the state's constitution to say life begins at conception, fertilized eggs having the same legal rights as a person. and in the ohio a referendum on repealing a state law limiting collective bargaining by public
employees. a story in the associated press, a conservative-leaning panel of federal appellate judges is upholding president obama's health care law as constitutional, helping set up a supreme court fight. the u.s. court of appeals for the district of columbia agreed to dismiss the christian legal group's lawsuit claiming the requirement that all americans get health insurance is unconstitutional and violates religious freedom. the supreme court is expected to decide soon whether to accept appeals of earlier rulings from other states and districts. we're waiting here for senate republicans as the senate comes in in about three minutes from now at about 2:15 eastern. [inaudible conversations]
[inaudible conversations] >> they continue to be live here on capitol hill waiting for senate republicans to appear, speak at the microphone after their party lunch today. the senate is coming back in now at 2:15 eastern time for more work on a bill repeal ago 3% withholding tax from certain federal contractors. as always, we have live coverage of the senate here on c-span2. of the motion to proceed to h.r. 674, which the clerk will report. the clerk: motion to proceed to the consideration of h.r h.r. 6, an act to amend the internal revenue code of 1986 and so forth and for other purposes. a senator: mr. president? the presiding officer: the senator from illinois. mr. kirk: mr. president, i ask unanimous consent to speak as if in morning business. the presiding officer: without objection, so ordered. mr. kirk: mr. president, i rise today to talk about two entirely different subjects. first, on the subject of iran,
the subject of a critical international atomic energy agency report that will be issued likely tomorrow. credible press reports on the united nations document tell us an important thing. remember, it was the iaea that urged caution with regard to the weapons of mass destruction program on iraq, and the record shows that the iaea was largely correct on its determination there. based on that credibility, we should listen to the iaea and what they say in this groundbreaking report. their report makes six very important conclusions, according to credible press reports. number one, that the islamic republic of iran has used military people to procure dual-use nuclear material. number two, that they have developed an undeclared nuclear material production line
separate from their commitments under the nuclear nonproliferation treaty. number three, that they have now acquired outside international information on the development of nuclear weapons. number four, that they have begun work on an indigenous design for a nuclear weapon. and, number five, that they are already substantially in excess of the 3% enrichment for uranium 235 necessary to run a nuclear reactor, as they originally claimed. the sixth conclusion, though, appears to be the most importa important. the international atomic energy agency concludes that they may have also begun work on a new payload for their shahab 3 missile. this is a missile that largely comes from north korea called the no-dong and is able to hit u.s. bases in the persian gulf and our allies in israel. according to the reports on this
u.n. document, it says that the shahab 3 payload has the correct mass for a nuclear weapon, has a generator aboard the warhead that would be necessary to initiate a nuclear detonation, that it is designed for an air burst to make that detonation most effective, that the weapon has multiple detonators in it. i think this is a key conclusion because a conventional munition only requires one detonator, but a nuclear weapon requires multiple and this has it. that it does not issue any submunitions, that all of the warhead is contained in one critical mass, and that the iranian haves now prepared a 400-meter test shaft likely for a nuclear test shot. if this is not a smoking gun, i don't know what is. i don't know what the word for "smoking gun" in farsi is, but
clearly the united nations, not known for speaking clearly on many topics, is now telling us one clear thing -- that the islamic republic of iran is designing and moving towards building nuclear weapons. and if we look at their record, we will see that the islamic republic of iran has transferred nearly every one of its advanced munitions that it currently owns to terrorist organizations, including antishipping cruise missiles which the iranians transferred to hezbollah. we've also known several dangerous -- actually dangerously weird things going on in the islamic republic of iran, like sentencing an iranian actress to 90 lashes for appearing in an australian film simply on the crime of not having her head covered. luckily, because the international human rights called attention to this, apparently that sentence may be in abeyance.
or credible reports this weekend that the islamic republic of iran under president ahmadinejad has arrested 70 fashion designers for antiislamic activity. what we know for a fact is that the islamic republic of iran has been a state sponsor of terror, as certified by president carter, presidents reagan, bush, clinton, bush ii and president obama under secretary of state clinton. we know that they are the leading paymasters for hezbollah and hamas. and so what we can see clearly from this report is this year, or likely the year after, they will have nuclear weapons. i think it's quite likely that they would then transfer those nuclear weapons directly to hezbollah and hamas. this is something that we can't allow to happen, which is why action in the senate and in the executive branch should occur on collapsing the central bank of iran. we already have 92 senators who
have agreed, even in these partisan times, to collapse the central bank of iran. 92 senators have signed on to the kirk-schumer letter to call for this action. this action was also just recommended in an overwhelmingly bipartisan fashion in the house foreign affairs committee, under the leadership of congressman berman, to recommend this also in the house. i think that the administration, who has leaked several times to the "new york times" that they have this under consideration, should move in this direction. and for those countries that substantially purchase oil from the islamic republic of iran, we should work with our saudi allies to make sure that their needs are met so that we can go ahead and collapse the central bank of iran and the iranian currency, especially in the wake of this report. remember, this is the government that, according to attorney general eric holder, led a plot to blow up a georgetown restaurant, possibly involving
the death of many americans, including, they described, senators in an effort to kill the saudia arabian ambassador to the united states. this is singly irresponsible activity and one that now coupled with tha this iaea repon nuclear weapons should not be tolerated. i wanted to discuss this topic but i wanted to discuss one other, which is that today the supreme court has agreed to an oral argument on the case of u.s. v. jones. the case concerns your rights to privacy as an american citizen. now, as an american, i believe that our government is the greatest government for the potential of every human being and the dignity of that human being, and under our constitution, we have the first government of any major government in the world to begin to protect that right of priva privacy, even against the government. it's enshrined in the fourth
amendment to the constitution. and as the founding fathers defined it, i think our 18th century fourth amendment privacy rights, which are covered, including your house and your place of business, are well defined and well protected under our law. the question is this: what about your rights to privacy in the 21st century? what about the mobile device that you carry, the tablet computer, the g.p.s. in your car, and the various other computer devices that you have? do you have a reasonable expectation of privacy with regard to this data, or can the government access this data and decide that they can find out where you've been, who you've been with and how long you've been there without a warrant? given the fact that the supreme court has just taken up oral arguments on this case, i think it's important for the senate to back the wyden-kirk g.p.s. act. this is an act that basically
says that we should protect your rights of privacy in the 21st century as well as the 18th, 19th and 20th centuries. that you should not only be secure in your house and your papers, but you should be secure in your g.p.s. data as well. now, that if the government seeks to find out where you've been and who you've been with, at least it needs a warrant. your right as an american citizen protected in that privacy before having access to that information. i hope that we consider this legislation as early as next year because i think we rise to our greatest potential here in the united states senate when we update your rights as an american to protect them, not just in the 20th century but in the 21st century. and with that, mr. president, i yield back.
mr. lieberman: mr. president, i move that further proceedings under the quorum call be dispensed with. the presiding officer: without objection, so ordered. mr. lieberman: i thank the chair. mr. president, today the international atomic energy agency has issued its latest report on the nuclear weapons development program of the islamic republic of iran. this latest i.e.a. report is the
clearest warning about a potentially catastrophic threat to the united states since the hart-rudman commission in january, 2001, predicted a major terrorist attack on our homeland, which, of course, occurred about nine months later. the i.e.a.'s message today is similarly stark. the extremist terrorist regime that rules iran is actively working to possess nuclear weapons, and the time to stop them is running out. the obama administration deserves credit for rallying the international community to put unprecedented diplomatic and economic pressure on the iranian regime, but the sad fact is that nothing the united states and our international partners have
done has changed iran's egregious threatening and in many cases murderous behavior. its pursuit of nuclear weapons, its sponsorship of terrorism, its infiltration of neighboring countries, its responsibility for training and equipping terrorists and extremists who have killed literally hundreds of american citizens in iraq and throughout the middle east. or its repression of its own people. on the contrary, in all of these areas, notwithstanding the increasing international diplomatic and economic pressure on the regime in iran, that regime's behavior has only grown more emboldened and more reckless. i know that some have argued that the united states and our international partners can live with a nuclear iran and that we
can contain it, but the recent discovery of an iranian terrorist plot which was to be carried out on u.s. soil, killing the saudi ambassador here and targeting members of congress and perhaps eventually the israeli ambassador in the israeli embassy provides the clearest possible evidence of why we cannot hope to contain a regime as fanatical, expansionist and brutal as the one that now rules iran. particularly when it has the fearsome club of nuclear weapons capacity. if the iranian regime acquires a nuclear weapons capability, it will be because the world, including us, allowed that to
happen. it's still within our power to stop it, but it will require, in my opinion, more than further incremental pressure, which is to say more of what we've already been doing that clearly has not changed the behavior of the regime in tehran. it's time for the united states and our international partners to undertake what i would call nonincremental measures against the iranian regime. and among those i would include tough sanctions on its central bank. it's also time for congress to pass the new and tougher iran sanctions legislation which is had the banking committee and which over 3/4 of the senate in a very strong bipartisan statement has cosponsored. there's no reason, mr. president, why we cannot pass that bill before the end of
this calendar year. finally, it's time for the united states and our international partners to move beyond the formulation that has grown routine and i'm afraid ultimately hollow, which is that all options are on the table when it comes to iran's nuclear weapons development program and their terrorist action. it's time for an unequivocal declaration. all the more so in response to the yea the iaea today that we will stop iran from acquiring nuclear weapons capability, we and our international partners, by peaceful means if we possibly can, but with military force if we absolutely must. i thank the chair. i yield the floor and note the absence of a quorum.
quorum call. the presiding officer: without objection. mr. vitter: thank you, mr. president. mr. president, several weeks ago on september 28 of this year, i joined three of my senate colleagues -- senators shelby and cornyn and hutchison -- in requesting from the obama administration and its interior department a detailed plan about what their new five-year energy lease plan was going to be as well as their plans for moving forward with scheduled leasing. we finally got some of the answers to that today as the administration released its new five-year oil and gas lease plan. i guess that's the good news. we finally got our questions answered. there's a lot more bad news, unfortunately, which is what those answers are. and it's deeply disappointing that we're not moving forward in a far more aggressive and positive way into developing our
own domestic energy resources. as i said, today secretary salazar introduced president obama's plan for the next five years of energy production, specifically on the outer continental shelf. for those members in the senate, for others watching who aren't as familiar with energy production on the outer continental shelf, this is basically the five-year strategy for us as a nation in terms of oil and gas production domestically. what we're going to do in these next five years to produce more of our own energy. now, the opportunity was enormous because, mr. president, as you remember, a few years ago, in 2008, there was a bipartisan agreement to lift the decades-long ban on new offshore drilling and to open new areas
off the atlantic coast, off the pacific coast, and off the arctic coast. and so those opportunities were enormous. this map illustrates what the opportunities were given that 2008 lifting of the moratorium. previously this had been off limits, this had been off limits. much of this had been off limits. but in 2008, on a bipartisan basis, congress, even a democratic congress, heard the cry of the american people and said we need to develop more of our own domestic energy resources. and so we opened up all of these possibilities. unfortunately, president obama chose not to take advantage of those opportunities because this map represents his new five-year plan announced today. the entire atlantic coast, off limits. the entire pacific coast, off
limits. much of the alaska coast off limits. western gulf of mexico, with there's traditionally been significant activity, of course is still there. but even the eastern gulf, that has been withdrawn under related federal law until 2022. and that's deeply disappointing. put another way, in the previous five-year lease plan there were about 30 sale areas that were outlined to have lease-sales in 30 specific areas around our outer continental shelf. that was the previous five-year plan. in a plan existed when president obama took office. and one of the first things he did in the energy area with his secretary of interior ken salazar was to throw that plan out the window almost immediate
hreufpl this was well -- immediately. this was well before the b.p. disaster. taxpayer wasn't in reaction to that disaster or anything else specific. they threw that five-year plan out the window n. this new five year lease-plan, their first in the obama administration they're releasing today, instead of 30 areas, there are about 15. they've moved backwards cutting in half the number of lease-sales that were planned in the five-year plan. put another way, instead of having about six lease-sales per year, there are only going to be three. now, as any fourth grader can tell you doing that simple math, that's moving backwards by a lot. that's going from about 30 lease-sales to half that number -- 15. that's going from about six-year to, half that number: three. our energy needs are not moving backwards. our desire and need for
increased energy independence is not moving backwards. yet our effort and our ability to access our own domestic oil and gas on our own outer continental shelf under this obama plan is doing exactly that. it's moving backwards. let me put it a different way, the outer continental shelf of the united states is about 1.76 billion acres. almost two billion acres. but of all that vast expanse, only 38 million acres are actually leased. that's 2.16% of our entire outer continental shelf. this plan, this new five-year plan increases that a tiny amount at the margin, keeps it under 3%. so with a vast energy-reach outer continental shelf, we're still 3% or under of what we
could access under this new plan. and again, we're moving backwards from the previous five-year plan that president obama threw out quickly upon taking office. and that's deeply disappointing. mr. president, if i'm disappointed, i know there are some folks who are even more disappointed, including our colleagues in virginia. some select production and lease-sale activity off the virginia coast was planned in the previous five-year plan. that's out the window. as you can see, nothing can go on off the atlantic. also, four geologic basins off southern california and one geologic basin off northern california were in the previous five-year plan. that's out the window. there is nothing that can happen off the pacific coast. even in alaska, the northern
aleutian basin and cook inlet were in the previous five-year plan. that's zeroed out. that's out the window. that is not in this new five-year plan. my basic question on this disappointing announcement is simple: how does excluding all of these areas, how does cutting back the previous five-year plan to half that amount, how does that best meet our national energy needs? it seems to me it's clear it doesn't. in fact, it eliminates incredible job and revenue opportunities as well as our ability to increase energy independence to produce more domestic energy, all of which we desperately need to do. mr. president, as the national ocean industries association puts it -- quote -- "a five-year plan for the outer continental shelf is the most important and defining action and administration takes in providing new oil and gas
resources for building economic prosperity in this country." close quote. and they're right. it is the single-most defining action with regard to outer continental shelf energy production. and so with this action today, what is president obama saying? what is his interior secretary saying? he's saying we're moving backwards. he's saying we're going to do about half of what we were going to do in the previous five-year plan which we canceled immediately upon taking office. and that's very disappointing. it's disappointing for our energy picture. it's disappointing in terms of our need to lessen our reliance on foreign sources. it's also sadly disappointing in terms of the jobs picture, because every lease-sale that happens is thousands upon thousands of great american jobs to help build the economy and help get us back out of this
horrible recession. and finally, it's even deeply disappointing with regard to our challenge of lowering deficit and debt, because you know what? this energy production, the more we do, the more revenue we bring into the federal treasury to lower deficit and debt. in fact, after the federal income tax, this is the single-biggest category of federal revenue into the federal treasury. royalty on domestic energy production. so it's domestic energy. it's great american jobs. it's lowering deficit and debt with more revenue. president obama today has said "no" to all of those things. he's taken an enormous step backward. he said, compared to the previous five-year plan, we're only doing half. he said we're shutting off the atlantic coast. he said we're shutting off the pacific coast and much of the
coast off alaska. today i have written secretary salazar and expressed these concerns, and i've asked the secretary if they will reconsider the step backwards, because our country just can't afford it. we can't afford it in energy terms. we can't afford it in jobs terms. we can't afford it in revenue terms when we need more revenue to lower deficit and debt. and so i'll be following up aggressively on that letter, trying to understand the rationale behind this step backward and trying to get the obama administration to reconsider. thank you, mr. president. i yield the floor, and i suggest the absence of a quorum. the presiding officer: the clerk will call the roll. quorum call:
in morning business. the presiding officer: without objection. mr. durbin: mr. president, this past sunday i was watching an abc morning news show and cassian amanpour was interviewing of theth speaker of the house, john boehner. and speaker boehner was asked a number of questions but the one he clearly wanted to focus on was what he called the republican jobs program. and he handed to miss amanpour a laminated card which he said was the republican jobs program that had passed the house of representatives and was dying here in the senate, had never been called for passage. and so it struck me as odd because i missed that during the course of this last year, that there was a republican jobs program, and i was a little bit worried because we're looking for every opportunity we can to create jobs. and so i came back and said to my staff, can you get a copy of this laminated card, i want to see what's written on it. well, they -- they produced the card for me and took a look at it and as a result of it, i would have to say that the
republican view on how to create jobs and moving the economy forward is considerably different than my own and considerably different than the views of most americans. because what the republicans have proposed doing is eliminating rules and regulations. they believe that's what's holding back the growth of the american economy. one of the areas that they particularly focused on is known as the dodd-frank bill, the wall street reform bill. some of us are not suffering from political amnesia. we can recall what happened. just a few years ago all across america when at the end of the bush administration, we faced some of the worst choices i have ever heard when we were presented an opportunity by the chairman of the federal reserve, ben bernanke, the secretary of the treasury, mr. paulson, to literally bail out the wall street banks and major institutions to the tune of almost $800 billion for mistakes they had made, and we were given
an ultimatum. if we didn't do it, we could see a collapse of our american economy and the global economy. and so many of us reluctantly voted for that, believing that we had no choice. and what we did was to send billions of dollars to banks up in wall street that had made serious mistakes, creating credit default swaps and derivatives, creating offices in london that could skirt the american laws and literally hanging the american economy out to dry. the net result of that, of course, is that all across america, people suffered. individuals lost their savings and their retirements. families were facing hardship when they were laid off and faced unemployment. businesses closed and restructured and downsized. the whole economy suffered because of what was clearly wrongdoing on the part of our financial community. as a result of that, president obama said we need to change the rules and laws in america so
that there will be adequate oversight so that we never get into this mess again. the first amendment on the dodd-frank bill in the senate was offered by senator boxer of california, and she said this is the end of too big to fail. we're never walking down this path again. so we put our financial institutions and corporations of america on notice that we were not going to bail them out in the future should they make another colossal mistake at the expense of workers and families and businesses across america. then we went through the entire regulatory law as it related to wall street, the stock exchanges and all of the exchanges across america and said what do we need to do to make certain that there is transparency, that the banks that were overleveraged, loaning far more than they should, are in a position where they are fiscally sound, financially sound, and how do we put cops on the beat on wall street to the securities and exchange commission and the commodities
futures trading commission to guard against this sort of thing ever occurring again. we offered that as wall street reform, with the support of president obama but without the support of a single republican senator or congressman, not one. not one would support us in this effort. we passed it anyway. the president signed it. it's now being implemented, moving forward, and i think long overdue. well, it turns out that that's one of the first things that the republicans now want to eliminate in their effort to build the american economy. well, i can tell you we would be building the american economy on a house of -- on a foundation of sand if we did it. if we ignored the experience we had just a few years ago when we were forced into this bailout situation, sending billions to the biggest bankers in america and having them turn around and declare bonuses for their top officers and employees. if we would ignore that reality and that history and say that we were going to follow the
republican lead and eliminate this oversight of wall street, it would just invite another economic disaster. but yes, that is one of the house republican planks for rebuilding the american economy. the financial crisis of 2008 wiped out eight million jobs in america. 24 million americans today are still suffering, unemployed or underemployed. millions of families have lost their homes. the report in the chicago newspapers this morning was stunning and troubling. almost 50% of the homes in our region in chicago are under water. what it means is families have borrowed more in their mortgages than their home is currently valued. that is a troubling development, but it is a reality. it reflects what happened when the overanxious and overinflated real estate market got out of hand. we don't want that to happen again. if we're going to avoid it, we
have to have appropriate oversight and regulation. many families have seen their home values plummet, not just in chicago but nationwide. the retirement savings have been cut in half over the last four years. in illinois and across america, solid well-run companies, many a business for decades have been shaken to the core by the lack of credit and the lack of customers. so what do our republican colleagues offer as a solution? what is the republican jobs plan? incredibly, they have responded to america's economic crisis, not by rethinking their deregulation dogma but by doubling down. let me explain. in addition to repealing wall street reform, republicans are trying to change the most basic protections we have in america for clean air and pure drinking water. think about this. the republican majority in the house has voted 168 times this year, 168 times to undercut
clean air and clean water laws and to block efforts to limit global warming, protect public health, protect the public lands that we have been left by previous generations and guard against things like future oil spills. 168 times just this year, and they are not finished. our colleagues on the other side of the aisle have attached more than 50 antienvironmental policy riders so far to spending bills for next year. they are unrelenting. i won't go into all of the environmental and public health protections the republicans are trying to block. let me focus on two. republicans have used the senate's rule 14 to place bills blocking these two new rules directly on the senate calendar rather than going through the regular order. it's their right to do that. they are saying in effect we don't have time for the normal rules, we don't have time to hear from the scientists or the american people. we need to bury these rules right now. the first rule they want to delay is the boiler mact rule, the mact rule.
it's an acronym that stands for maximum achievable control technology. the boiler mact rule would reduce the amount of mercury die objection inches, acid gases and other toxic pollutants that can be emitted by large industrial boilers and solid waste incinerators. is that the key to building jobs in america? large industrial boilers spewing more toxic chemicals into the air, solid waste incinerators burning without the regulation to prengt -- protect the people that happen to live downwind? these chemicals can cause cancer, heart, lung and kidney disease, damage to eyes and skin, impair brain development in children and babies and learning ability and they can kill people. that's a fact. the other new clean air rule in the cross hairs from the republicans is the so-called cross-state air pollution rule. it would require significant reductions in two toxic chemicals -- sulfur dioxide and
nitrogen oxide released by electric power plants. these chemicals not only cause sickness and death, they can spread hundreds of miles downwind and across state lines. many states can't develop new jobs and industries because they have reached their air pollution limits under national clean air standards, but not because of what they are doing in their states but rather for the wind that's blowing from other states with pollution. what puts them over the limit are emissions that travel from old coal-burning power plants in other states. that's not right, and it's not fair. the cross-state air pollution rule would set new limits on sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxide emissions and establish an emissions cap-and-trade system for 31 eastern states and the district of columbia. it's a reasonable, market-based solution to a serious public health threat. the republicans would abolish it. both the boiler mact rule and the cross-state pollution rule replace rules that were developed by the e.p.a. as far back as the bush administration,
rules that were stricken by the d.c. circuit court. in both cases, the court ordered the e.p.a. to come up with a new rule. house republicans have already passed a bill to delay these new air pollution quality standards for at least 15 months, and here in the senate, they would delay them for up to five years. as for the cross-state air pollution rule, senator rand paul of kentucky has introduced a resolution of disapproval to just kill it altogether so there will be no standard, so that if you happen to live downwind from a polluting power plant and your state is trying to do its best to clean up its act, it's to no avail. the air pollution quality will be so bad in your state because of your neighboring state that you are going to face serious problems and restrictions in your own development. the house has taken an even more radical approach. they voted almost entirely along party lines, passing a republican bill called the train act, that would delay indefinitely the cross-state air
pollution rule and another life-saving rule, the mercury and toxic standards, air toxic standards. the act would also overturn the legal requirement that e.p.a.'s public health rules be based on the best advice of scientists, not the demands of politicians or their donors. it's the most serious attack on the clean air act since the law was passed 40 years ago under president -- republican president richard m. nixon. president obama has already said he's going to veto any bills that would delay the new clean air rules, and our republican colleagues know they don't have the vote to override his veto, so once again, they are forcing the senate to debate measures they know have no chance, zero chance of becoming law, and that, ladies and gentlemen, is the republican jobs plan. republicans say federal agencies should analyze the cost to business of every new regulation, whether it's meant to protect against wall street recklessness, offshore oil disasters, lead-based toys or
killer cantaloupes. if a regulation hurts the corporate bottom line, the republicans argue it shouldn't be passed. i have a counterproposal for my colleagues on the other side of the aisle. any politician who proposes deregulating an industry ought to be required to tell the public how much money deregulation would cost, how many jobs might be lost, how many lives might be cut short, how many children and other members of our family will end up in the hospital and how much of our nation's natural treasuries might be scared or destroyed. let's have -- scarred or destroyed. let's have an honest assessment on both sides of the ledger. mr. president, when i travel across my state, much like your state, we have big cities and small towns. i go to schools and i talk to the kids, and usually they have the common questions, do you have a limousine, how much money do you make and things that kids will ask you. and so i ask questions back to them. one question i have started asking at every school is the following -- how many of you
know someone who is suffering from asthma? without fail, more than half the hands will go up. in mount sterling, illinois, a small farm town down in brown county in down state illinois, half the hands went up. i guarantee you that every classroom in the city of chicago, more than half the hands will go up. asthma has become epidemic in america, and it is related to many things, including the quality of the air that we breathe. on the south side of chicago, it's hard to find a child who doesn't suffer from asthma. in 2007, the cost of asthma-related hospitalizations in illinois totaled $280 million. the average stay cost $15,000 for an asthma case. and nearly 60% of those hospital costs were paid for by taxpayers through medicare and medicaid. air pollution makes asthma worse. if we reduce air pollution, we can reduce asthma attacks, and
asthma-related deaths and save taxpayers tens of billions a year just in the cost of treating that single disease. that's something you never hear when the disciples of deregulation start preaching. here are some other facts you won't hear about deregulation from the deregulation devoteees. the new boiler mact rule will create jobs, not eliminate them. it will prevent between 2,500 and 6,500 premature deaths each year and it would save between $22 billion and $54 billion a year in health care costs. the cross-state air pollution rule which they would also abolish would also net thousands of new jobs, prevent $400,000 cases of aggravated asthma and 34,000 premature deaths each year, saving $280 billion in health care costs. in my state alone, the cross-state rule will save 1,500 lives a year and provide enough public health benefit to save our state $12 billion.
$12 billion in illinois. that's more than illinois spent on health, hospitals and highways combined in the year 2009. deregulation is a costly gamble, even for businesses that are deregulated. during the last administration, oil companies were allowed to self-regulate under the bush administration. how did that work in the gulf of mexico with british petroleum? the gulf oil spill is the worst industrial environmental disaster in u.s. history. congratulations, self-regulators. local businesses suffer $4 billion to $12 billion in lost income because of self-regulation by a major oil company. b.p. alone is likely to spend $40 billion in claims, fines and other expenses from this historic, awful spill. now, those who push for deregulation tell us environmental rules are job killers, nothing but a burden on businesses and consumers. they're wrong.
regulations that are well designed are, to borrow a phrase from our republican friends, job creators. they can spur innovation, create new products, new jobs, even whole new industries. a study published in the -- by the political economy research institute at the university of massachusetts amherst estimates that new ire pollution rules for power plants will provide long-term economic benefits across much of the united states in terms of highly skilled, well-paid jobs through infrastructure investment. specifically, clear air investments could create 25,000 new jobs in 2015 right here at home. to bring this story closer to home, just recently i made a trip in illinois to a new coal-fired plant. it's a plant that is amazing. it's called the prairie state energy campus and it's owned by a number of electric cooperatives. it has $1 billion investment in
the clean use of coal to produce electricity. they took a look at the law and instead of hiring lawyers to fight it, they hired engineers to comply with it and the plant is up and running. it is a marvel to behold and right across from this plant is a coal mine. and the coal that is drawn from that mine goes into this plant and meets all the speskses are required today by the e.p.a. the people who are running this plant are not whining and crying and begging for relief. they rolled up their sleeves and built a plant much cleaner than anything that exists in the united states and they are proving it can be profitable. i wish my republican friends would come to the prairie state energy campus. they should see and know that 4,000 union jobs were created for the construction of this plant. and they expect to have 500 permanent local jobs to boost the illinois economy by $785 million a year with our own local coal. the campus includes two
generators that will produce 1,600 megawatts of clean, low-cost energy for customers in the midwest. it will go online by the end of the year. by using the latest technology, carbon dioxide emissions will be 15% lower. and the plant will save an estimated 250,000 tons of carbon dioxide by mining it at an adjacent coal mine. 160 miners. it's not my first visit to a coal mine but it's an eye opener see how they mine coal today. two weeks ago, prairie state announced plans to hire even more miners. in illinois incidentally coal miners make a decent wage, $65,000 a year. these are good jobs in america mining coal to be used in a clean coal plant. it can be done. the republicans ought to acknowledge it can be done and
dmu jobs are being created in the process while we're reducing air pollution. two out of three americans said they support new clean air rules and oppose what the republicans are trying to do in the name of job creation. nearly 90% of all americans, nearly 60% of republicans and conservatives, i might add, said congress should not prevent the e.p.a. from enforcing the new rules. i wish that my republican friends who are so dead set on eliminating these standards for air and water pollution would listen to the people across america who want cleaner air and purer drinking water and are willing to see reasonable regulation to reach those goals. the push to kill new clean air rules isn't just coming from the american people. it's part of a huge power grab. the u.s. chamber of commerce and republicans in congress have launched an unprecedented anti-regulation campaign. the chamber is reportedly spending millions of dollars to push the message that
regulations are job killers. their goal is to roll back existing environmental, health, financial, and other regulatory protection and to block any new protection. they are using the american job cries toys try to push through an agenda that will increase our deficit, actually take away jobs in america, and cause thousands of americans to get sick and some to die. just to cut taxes on millionaires and billionaires and get rid of government regulation and they believe we can get the economy humming again. that's their credo. madam president, if that were true the last administration would have been the most prosperous in our history because that is the message and philosophy and agenda that guided the bush administration. instead, in the words of "the wall street journal," not exactly a democratic publication , george w. bush's administration produced the worst jobs record on record. we've tried this. it doesn't work. we've seen this movie, we know
how it ends. this notion of protecting millionaires from any taxes and repealing any laws related to the regulation of our economy just didn't work under the bush administration and shouldn't be tried again. madam president, the reason two million americans are out of work has nothing to do with excessive financial or environmental regulation. if anything, our economy is hurting because we don't have the appropriate regulation in place now to avoid the excesses of the past. to say that we can't create jobs without creating dangerous levels of toxic chemicals in our air and water is an absolutely false choice. we've got to find an approach that protects the health of american families and balances the needs of business and is based on the reality of science. for 40 years democrats and republicans used to work together on this agenda. we need to do it again. in the meantime, if our republican colleagues want to create good middle-class jobs here at home, let's pass the
president's american jobs act. this will not only create jobs, it will fund infrastructure and road repairs, cut payroll taxes for working families, saving the average family about $1,500 a year and extend badly needed unemployment tboafts those out of work. it keeps hundreds of thousands of teachers in the classroom and cops and firefighters on the job in our neighborhoods and communities. that's the way to create good jobs. america doesn't need dirty water and dirty air to create good-paying jobs. i hope the republican agenda even if it's laminated on a card passed are out by speaker john boehner will realize we can do better by not comom compromising our public health and the nation we live in. i yield the floor and suggest the absence of a quorum. the presiding officer: the clerk will call the roll. quorum call: boozman: mr. presid.
the presiding officer: the senator from arkansas. mr. boozman: i would like to rescind the quorum. the presiding officer: without objection. mr. boozman,: i would like to thank those who earned the title of veteran. the 11th hour of the 11th month marked the end of world war i. since then this day has been celebrated first as armistice day but now as veterans day. no matter what we call it it serves the purpose of honoring our nation's heroes, those who served in the military, our veterans. as son of a world war ii veteran who served as a gunner on b-17's i grew up in a family rooted in military tradition. my father remained in the military until he retired from the air force as a master sergeant after 20 years of service.
at an early age by brother, my sister, and i were taught about the sacrifices our men and women make in uniform. growing up in this environment gave us an understanding of the unique challenges that military families face and understanding that guides my efforts today. my mom would continually remind me of my responsibility as a publicker is vanity to keep our promises to those who served in our nation's uniform. until her recent passing one of her first questions i would ask whenever i saw her would inevitably be what have you done for veterans lately? i also -- i was always able to answer with a clean conscience serving in the house and now in theth senate. despite how divided we h.r., democrats and republicans come together more often than not to enhance the quality of life for our veterans and their families. today in the senate veterans'
affairs committee we are working to secure the benefits our veterans deserve and improve existing benefits to meet the needs of more than 23 million american veterans. including 257,000 who call arkansas home. the most important thing for all of us to remember is the reason that we are working to improve veterans' benefits -- the men and women of our armed forces and their families. through ther selfless sacrifice, we are protected from our enemies. they make the united states a safer place to live. they have heard our nation's call and met the challenge with their service. it's now up to us to ensure our veterans have access to all the opportunities that our great nation has to offer. taking care of our veterans is the responsibility of every american. it is important that we all continue to serve our veterans and to reflect on those who
serve in conflicts around the globe as well as those who are serving today in support of the war on terror in iraq and afghanistan. let us also reflect on the sacrifices of those who have given their last full measure of devotion. in september i came to the floor, to the senate floor to honor the lives of five arkansans who were killed in action this year. last week, sadly we lost a sixth member from arkansas this year: specialist sarinam. butcher followed in the food steps of her grandfather -- footsteps of her grandfather and brother and joined the military in april of 2010. as a member of the oklahoma national guard she served as an automatic logistical specialist but her ultimate goal was to become a nurse. at the age of 19 this arkansas native and mother to a beautiful little girl was killed in an i.e.d. explosion in afghanistan on november 1. we are grateful for her service
and her sacrifice. we are forever indebted to her and every american who has worn the uniform and sacrificed their own safety and security for that of the american people. every day the men and women of our armed forces stand in defense of our nation and our cherished way of life. they do so regardless of cost, fully aware that they may be called to pay the ultimate price for their country. this week communities across the country gather to express our undying gratitude for those who have worn our nation's uniform. let us always honor the service of those who have served and those on the front lines today as we address the important challenges facing the nation. to all of our veterans and their families, thank you on behalf of a grateful nation. and with that, i yield back, madam president.
a senator: madam president? the presiding officer: the senator from vermont. mr. sanders: thank you very much. there are two issues that i would like to touch upon this afternoon that i think are very significant importance to the people of our country. madam president, on sunday, just two days ago, i held a town meeting in montpelier, vermont, on the issue of saving the postal service. and i was, frankly, stunned by the number of people who came. as you know, vermont is not the largest state in the country, and yet we had some 350 people crowding into the cafeteria at montpelier high school to say very clearly that they do not want to see the postal service dismembered. they do not want to see policies developed which will create a death spiral for the post offices of america. and we heard a lot of testimony
from many people. the bottom line is that everybody in that room thought that it was terribly wrong that in the midst of a recession the post office is talking about cutting 120,000 good-paying jobs in our country. it didn't make sense to anybody in that room. and i find it ironic that at a moment when appropriately enough -- and i strongly support the effort, we're talking about creating jobs for veterans who are coming home from iraq and afghanistan with high unemployment rates, many of the people who work in the post office are in fact veterans. so on the one hand we're trying to create jobs for veterans. on the other hand, if the postal service does what it wants, we may end up losing 120,000 jobs, including many for veterans. madam president, i wanted to just touch on some of the
important issues i think that we have to deal with with regard to the postal service. and i want to just go over a letter that senators leahy, gillibrand, and wyden and myself sent to the chairpeople and ranking members of the committee on homeland security and the subcommittee as well. and that is senators lieberman, collins, carper, and scott brown. these are the points that we made in our letter, and these are points that are going to be incorporated in legislation that i will be introducing this week, legislation that i think is commonsense legislation, legislation that will help us create a business model so that the postal service can be successful, legislation that will save 120,000 jobs. and this is what we wrote in the letter to the homeland security
committee. first and foremost -- a lot of people don't know this. people say correctly postal service is having problems because we're in a digital age. first-class mail is going down because people are e-mailing. that's true. second of all, we're in the midst of a recession. many businesses are facing problems. but the most important financial problem facing the post office today are not those issues. they are the issues of accounting approaches which have done great disservice to the postal service. the united states postal service uniquely has been forced to prefund 75 years worth of future retiree health benefits in just ten years. there is no other agency of government which comes close to that onerous requirement, nor do we believe there are any
companies in the private sector that have been asked to do that. so you're asking the postal service to come up with a huge amount of money, put it into a fund in a way that no other agency of government, and we think no other private company has been forced to do. this mandate costs the postal service between $5.4 billion and $5.8 billion per year and it accounts for 100% of the postal service's $20 billion debt. without that onerous requirement, the usps would still have significant borrowing authority with the united states treasury to ride out the tough economic times we're seeing in the recession. furthermore, it's not only future retiree health benefits that they're being asked to come up and fund, but the usps needs to recoup the overpayments that
it has made to the csrs and to the fers, the federal retirement system. according to studies by the hey group and segal company, usps overpaid the csrs by $65 billion to $75 billion. if we can deal with those issues and treat the postal service fairly, we will have gone a very long way toward addressing the immediate financial crisis that the postal service is facing. second of all, what we want to be very careful about as we develop business models for the future is not start cutting, cutting and cutting and creating a postal service which will no longer have customer support and lay the groundwork for literally a death spiral and the destruction and demise of the postal service in years to come.
i come from a rural state, and post offices are extremely important to the people of small towns above and beyond getting mail. they become, in a sense, in some ways the identifying feature of a small town. it's where people come together and they talk. it is very important in my mind not to pell-mell start cutting hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of small post offices in rural america. and the legislation that we will be offering this week addresses that problem and i think a sensible and reasonable way. second of all, the postal service can never be competitive if when you drop a letter into a postal box, it takes five days for that letter to get to its destination. and one of the ideas that the postal service is talking about is making very significant cuts
in what they call processing centers. that's where the mail is gathered and forwarded. and if you cut those centers -- in my state we have two that are on the line. one in essex junction and one in white river junction. if you cut those and cut other processing centers across the country, what will happen is that when you drop that letter into a mailbox, it could take up to five days for that letter to reach its destination. and when you have that poor service, people simply are going to stop using the post office, and that continues the death spiral. people are not going to want to use the service. thirdly, and in the same vein, the postal service is now talking about cutting saturday delivery. and, again, that means that there are a whole lot of folks who get prescription drugs on saturday. there are a whole lot of people
who get a magazine or newspaper, newspapers on saturday. you cut that back, and people are going to say, no, i don't want to deal with the post office anymore. it's not worth it. so it seems to me that the choice we have is to do what the postal service is now talking about, and that is cut and eliminate rural post offices, end saturday mail delivery, cut out and eliminate significant numbers of processing centers which will slow down the delivery of mail. that is one approach. and lay off, by the way, some 120,000 american workers, including many veterans. i think that is a very bad idea. the other approach is to come up with a business model which recognizes that we're in the 21st century, that the post office has got to evolve and change and give the post office the freedom to compete in a way
that addresses the consumer needs of its customers. let me give you an example. the presiding officer comes from a rural state, as i do. a lot of people in our states want to get a fishing license. they want to get hunting licenses. if they walked in -- if that person walked in to a post office in rural new hampshire, rural vermont, they say, hey, can i fill out an application and get a fishing license or hunting license, the post office says, no we don't do that. we're not allowed to do that. if an individual literally wants to walk into a post office and somebody says i have a letter here and i want it notarized. can you please notarize it, they say sorry. they may be a notary public. they're not allowed by law to notarize. now, the issue of a digital revolution is obviously impacting post offices not only
in the united states but around the world. and other countries are looking at these challenges in a way that we are not. give you just one more example. for a lot of reasons, legal and otherwise, there are people who would like to see a document delivered to somebody in writing and not simply in e-mail. there are post offices now in other countries where you can send an e-mail, say, from vermont to california, it gets printed up. and on the same day that document gets delivered to a business or a home. a post office in america is not allowed to do that. by law, our post office is restricted from entering the 21st century. if somebody walks into a post office now, they say, well, you know, i want to print off ten copies of this document. i need ten copies.
where's your copying machine? the postmaster says we don't have a copying machine. we're not allowed to have a copying machine. there are a lot of ideas that are out there that people are talking about as to how the postal service can address the needs of customers in the 21st century. last but not least on this issue, one of the people at the town meeting on sunday got up and said, i just want to say this, that in our town, you know, we know our letter carrier very well. and our letter carrier noticed that mail remained in the mailbox of an elderly person. and the mailman got on the phone, called up the police department because he suspected that something was wrong. turned out something was wrong, and that person's life was saved. i expect that happens all over this country, that hundreds and hundreds and thousands of letter
carriers who know people, who interact with people, they do play and can more so play an important role in providing services. so, bottom line, madam president, is i think it is a bad idea in the midst of a recession to slash 120,000 jobs, including jobs of many of our veterans. second of all, i disco believe that if we use our brains and entrepreneurial spirit, we can create a post office which is very relevant and can be profitable in the 21st century. we will be introducing legislation addressing all of these issues, and i hope very much that my colleagues will be cosponsoring that legislation. madam president, there is another issue that i wanted to talk about a little bit. and that is the work of the
supercommittee. this country has a record-breaking deficit. it has a $14-plus trillion national debt, and only of the american people -- or virtually all -- want to see the supercommittee come up with a proposal which makes sense and which helps us address our deficit crisis. and my suggestions to the supercommittee is they in fact can do that by simply doing what the american people want them to do. now, i have heard some ideas out there where members of the supercommittee are talking about cutting social security, which h has not contributed one nickel to our deficit and has a $2.5 surplus. i've heard other ideas out there. we've got to cut medicare and medicaid. well, got 50 million people
without any health insurance. i don't think it is a brilliant idea to throw more and more people off of health insurance. so i think those are bad ideas, and every single poll that i have seen tells me that the american people agree, that those are dumb ideas. meanwhile, i have seen and talked to a whole lot of people who are asking me this question: they say, how is it that when the wealthiest people in this country are becoming much wealthier, when the effective tax rates of the top 2% are the lowest in decades, why isn't it that we're asking those people who are doing phenomenally well to start paying their fair share of taxes? and let me tell you something. this is not just a progressive idea; it is not just a democratic idea; what the polls suggest is all across the political spectrum, the american
people are saying, yes, it is right and appropriate that the wealthiest people in this country start paying their fair share of taxes. and, madam president, i would just mention to you that an abc news/"washington post" poll said that 75% of independents support raising taxes on millionaires. in that same poll, 57% of republicans support raising taxes on millionaires. in that same poll, 55% of tea party supporters, supposedly the extreme right wing who want to abolish social security and medicare and medicaid, turns out not to be the case at all. 55% of tea party supporters agree with raising taxes on millionaires. according to a june 2011
"washington post" poll, 72% of americans support raising taxes on incomes over $250,000. so i think we know what the american people want. they do not want, in poll after poll, to cut social security, medicare, and medicaid. because they know how vitally important those programs are to the well-being of tens of millions of americans. for example, according to a february 2011 nbc news/wall street poll, 77% of americans are opposed to cutting social security to reduce the deficit. so where are we as a country? we're pretty united. we're in agreement. but the american people -- whatt the american people are saying, the rich are getting richer. their effective real tax rates have gone down. they have got to pay more to in
taxes to help us do deficit reduction and create jobs. the american people also understand that there are huge corporate loopholes out there. oil companies making money hand over fist, getting huge tax breaks. wall street getting huge tax breaks. we lose $100 billion a year because large companies and the wealthy put their money into tax havens in the cayman islands, bermuda and canada. the people of this country mow that that's wrong. so i would hope very much, madam president, that the supercommittee will do nothing more than listen to the american people. that's all. and if you do that, you're going to do the right thing. don't cut social security, medicare, and medicaid. ask the wealthiest people in this country to start paying their fair share of taxes. do away with these outrageous loopholes that large, profitable corporations enjoy. if you do that, we can in fact
a senator: madam president, i ask consent ask unanimous consent that the quorum call be ended. officer without objection. a senator: and i ask to speak as if in morning business. the presiding officer: without objection. mr. wicker: thank you. madam president, i've come to the floor on a number of occasions to voice my concern about the deteriorating rule of law and the lack of respect for human rights in russia. primarily highlighting the cases of mikhail chord cough ski. the fact that chord cough ski
remains in jail is deplorable but i rise to speak about another case in which a man who opposed the government not only went to jail but died there. i choose my words carefully this afternoon, madam president, knowing that they will be disturbing to many and that a number of people within the russian government will take great offense. but i want everyone within the sound of my voice to know that i am choosing my words carefully. sergei magnitski was an american with a law firm in moscow. he was married with two children. his clients included the hermitage fund, which is the largest foreign portfolio
investor in russia. through sergei magninski's invest work -- invest gave work on behalf of hermitage, it was discovered that russian tax officials and organized criminals worked together to steal $230 million in public funds. orchestratingthe largest tax rebate fraud in russian history. as magnitsky would come to find out, this group had fraudulently reregistered three investment companies of the hermitage fund and embezzled from the russian treasury all of the profits, taxes that the company -- these companies had paid and did so under the guise of a tax refund. in october of 2008, magnitsky
voluntarily gave a sworn testimony against officials from the interior ministry against russian tax departments and the private criminals whom he found had perpetrated the fraud. a month later, interior ministry officers came to his moscow apartment, arrested him in front of his wife and two children, and threw him in pretrial detention. at the same time the russian federal security service claimed there was evidence that magnitski had applied for a u.k. visa and was considered a flight risk. the russian courts used this to prolong the term of his detemtion without a trial -- detention without a trial to 12 months. i should note that the british embassy in moscow has confirmed that mr. magnitsky had not applied for a u.k. visa since
the year 2002. and so the pretrial detention was based on a fabrication. once in custody, magnitsky was pressured and tortured by officials hoping we withdraw his testimony and asking him to falsely incriminate himself and his cliend. they placed mr. magnitsky in an overcrowded cell with no window pane payne panes and kept lights on to deprive him of sleep. each time he refused to testify, his conditions worsened as did his health. he lost 40 pounds and developed severe cree atight is and gallstones. one week before a planned
operation by detention center doctors, he was transferred to a maximum security detention center with no medical facilities. he spent the next four months of his life without any medical care, all of his requests for medical examination and surgery were denied by the russian government officials. the interior ministry officials managing magnitsky's detention refused family visits as, quote, an expedient to the investigation, unquote. from the time of his arrest magnitsky saw his wife only once. he never saw his children again after his arrest. during his 358 days in detention, mr. magnitsky wrote more than 450 petitions requesting medical attention and
challenging his cruel treatment and the denial of legal remedies and protesting his being taken hostage by the very interior ministry officials he had testified against. every petition filed was either ignored or rejected by russian authorities. on november 13, 2009, sergei magnitsk's condition worsened dramatically. doctors saw him on december 16 when he was transferred to a moscow detention center that had medical facilities. instead of being delivered 0 the detention center hospital and actually treated immediately, he was placed in an isolation cell, reportedly handcuffed, beaten, and he died in that cell. on the day f